Taking flight, digitally


By JOY LEE

First in line: The company is one of the early providers of online training in the area of emergency response.

WHILE the stay-at-home order has dampened many businesses over the past year, it has also forced many to do something with the time on their hands.

Mike Herrmann, chief executive officer of Wild Geese Group Sdn Bhd, knew it was time to take some ideas off the back burner when the company had to stop its operations with the start of the movement control order (MCO) last March.

“As soon as digital was presented as an option, we started working on it. And in March, we knew we had to go digital. By late May, we had a concept that we could present to our clients, ” he says.

Wild Geese provides services and training for oil and gas (O&G) companies in the area of emergency response. It supports O&G companies with its Managed Emergency Response Service Centre when things go wrong, but also helps them prevent those instances through training.

These emergencies may include accidents on oil rigs, leaks, explosions, terrorism attacks or oil spills.

Under normal circumstances, Herrmann and his team would be training O&G personnel at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur or they’d be flying out to other locations to provide training with its partners.

“We are giving a leg up  for all those people who have been in the industry for years but with no formal qualifications to show.”  Mike Herrmann“We are giving a leg up for all those people who have been in the industry for years but with no formal qualifications to show.” Mike Herrmann

But with the implementation of the travel bans to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the team at Wild Geese started developing a framework to deliver their training online.

“This has been at the back of our minds for quite a long time. But Covid-19 gave us time to dedicate to this. Otherwise, we were just busy with training every other day, ” he says.

That early move to go digital helped the company sustain its business over the past year as travel bans ended up being in place for a lot longer than expected. This also gave them an advantage as clients slowly embraced the online approach.

“To be honest, if it was not for our transition to digital, we would not be here today. If we had sat back, like how many of the other training providers did, and took a wait-and-see approach, we would absolutely not be open today.

“And I think this is where a lot of companies fell behind. They didn’t pursue this.

“Given that our core business is about process management and business continuity, we are equipped with the tools to appreciate this case scenario, ” notes Herrmann.

What also helped the company make the jump is its small size, which means decisions can be quickly made and implemented.

Herrmann explains that most other training providers were larger outfits. And while they may have bigger resources, they also have more layers of administration to get through to make any changes.

Additionally, many of the other providers cover a wider range of training segments, where emergency response makes up only a portion of their offerings. Because of this, they have not put in as much effort in turning their courses around.

Herrmann also points out that the O&G industry itself has been rather slow in embracing the change and while providers like Wild Geese may be ready to deliver their training online, it took their clients a longer time to hop on the bandwagon.

When they eventually caught up, Wild Geese was at the forefront in meeting their emergency training needs.

During the course of the past year, the company also saw an opportunity to branch out into providing more academically-accredited qualifications for those in the O&G industry. It launched its WGG Offshore Academy (WGGOA) in recent months to help workers in the offshore segment earn their qualification up to a level of a master’s degree.

“What spawned this was that we saw a lot of people getting laid off because projects were shut down. A lot of people found themselves out of work. And these people have accumulated years of knowledge and experience but have nothing to show for it.

“And they were getting beaten out of jobs by young graduates coming straight out of university because the latter has a degree.

“So we recognised a void there. We want to help reward these individuals for their experience, for the things that they know which are not going to be taught in universities but through real life experience.

“So we are giving a leg up for all those people who have been in the industry for years but with no formal qualifications to show, ” he says.

The academy has developed a framework of courses and qualifications that have been approved by the UK-based National Open College Network (NOCN), which recognises informal learning achieved by adults.

This allows WGGOA to recognise and validate a candidate’s prior learning and experience and deliver specific courses to the candidate to help them close the gap in achieving their intended qualification.

Once they have completed the necessary modules, they will be issued with the relevant certification.

WGGOA currently offers qualifications in two programmes, namely plant, process management and control as well as incident response, management and recovery.

Herrmann says they intend to expand their offerings and develop modules for other industries that are related to emergency response, such as onshore fire brigade, medical personnel and aviation.

“But before we do that, we have to make sure we have the appropriate qualified personnel to be able to offer any top-up courses that candidates would require and be able to strengthen the framework that we are offering. It would be irresponsible of us to just go into it when we don’t have a board, or somebody to back that up, ” he says.

For sure, Wild Geese didn’t just stay at home.

And as business sectors move back into gear, the company is seeing a pick up in enquiry for its online training.

In 2019, it raked in revenue of about RM5mil. Last year, income fell to only 5%-10% of that. Herrmann says Wild Geese has stayed afloat thanks to the pivots that the company made along the way as well as the various initiatives it took, including salary cuts.

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